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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I've been playing sax for some 16 years now, started dabbling in altissimo notes when I saw a high A at the end of the first movement of the Bill Holcombe Blues Concerto about 12 years ago.

Since then I have bled, stropped, bitten through reeds, smashed glasses. thrown crockery and deafened a few animal in my pursuit to get my upper register sounding as good as my normal register.

My ability in a nutshell: I support my sound well, I have really good control, my intonation is good, my technique is very good and my ear is quite rubbish.

Now overtones. So I discovered the overtone series about 10 years ago, hammered away for months and gave up. Spurradically I'd have a go, despite having students whom have mastered it in this time. A few years ago I incorporated it into my practice regardless of how high I get. No matter what I do I cannot get past the 3rd overtone. I have tried everything!!!!!

Air pressure, Slight changes in throat, lip. cheek. arm pit. rear everything pressure. The only way I can get it is by fingering Bb with the octave key and quickly switching to the low Bb fingering. It's so bloody annoying!

Now since then I have met other sax players with this problem. They cannot do closed tubed exercises at all. Of course because of this I have problems with G + G# in the altissimo with all fingerings known to man. G# is far worse for me than G whereas A, Bb, B, C, C# and D are quite easy.

I'm a classical player, I play the old version of the Yas-62 alto, with a C* mouthpiece and 2.5 vandoren blue box reeds. I think I've told you all I can and hopefully you are equipped to give me some advice.

Now, do I give up on the overtone series? Am I one of the unlucky few players who will never be able to play the overtone series successfully or have I just not fathomed the little gem I need to unlock it? Should I use the Vent key trick to give me an easier time or is this a cop out that should be avoided?

If someone can point me in the right direction to jumping this hurdle I will be eternally greatful, from one sax player to many I hope someone can help.

OverTony.
 

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What's the reason for practicing overtones? Isn't it to enhance your tone quality and your ability/control when playing altissimo? Seems to me that if your tone is excellent (or improving) and your altissimo the same, the end result has been reached. Would it matter, then, whether or not you have mastery over every note in the harmonic series? Would your quest be more like looking at the finger pointing at the moon, rather than looking at the moon itself, Grasshopper?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Quite right with the improving. However, my altissimo notes are comparable to being hit in the head with a large cactus.

My altissimo notes are piercing and horrible and mostly can't be played softly. Peers I have heard have a lovely soft, rounded edge to the higher notes. My aim through the overtone series is to be able to develop control of the altissimo in all dynamic ranges. I dread to use the upper register at the moment, as does anyone within 20 yards of me.

I have been told and read countless times that the overtone series holds the key, but what the key is escapes me. For the record, the moon runs away when I start to practice high notes :(
 

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You may have tried this BUT Sing harmonic pitch - then immediately try to play the note with the exacte same focus (throat, tongue, etc....) For Instance Sing D3 (Palm Key D) then with low Bb fingering play the pitch. Then try F3 same process. Somehow you have to activate the mechanics in throat, tongue, air, and to a certain degree jaw. Once it's activated - altissimo will be easy and controlled. Just my 2 cents. Good Luck (Top Tones is a good source as well)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I've tried singing the notes before but as a singer and not as a sax player so I shall give that a go, thank you!

Re literature. I've tried Top Tones, the book is the bane of my existence. It is fantastic if you dont hit a wall on the first Bb above the stave. I'm not so sure my answer can be found in a book and the £40 price tag for 86 pages of Rousseau's "High Tones" is a bit of a put off.
 

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maybe, just maybe you could try a stronger reed or a more open mpc...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Doesn't pay to be a creature of habit for so long I suppose, I've been using this setup for 10 years! I did try 3's many years ago and they didn't seem to make any difference aside from mess up my low notes but perhaps you're right and it is time for some more experimentation. I'll add that to the list of possible fixes thanks AhCheung. A trip to the local music shop is in order then :)
 

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Do the sides of your tongue touch your molars? Also you should try to see if you can get concert C down to concert G on just the mouthpiece by moving your tongue only. Like a "Remmington" C-B-C-Bb-C-A etc. Most classical players put their normal tone between A and B. So you're above and below your norm.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yes my tongue does touch the sides of my molars actually! I've never been asked that before.

I'm an A naturally on the mouthpiece alone and I've done a fair bit of practice at picking out tones on the mouthpiece alone, mostly through throat shape though not tongue positioning though. I'll give that a go as number 3. What am I trying to achieve by picking out these notes on the mouthpiece alone aside from awareness of tongue position and the subsequent effect?
 

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Never say goodbye to the overtone series.

Since you are a singer, you need to do some harmonic chanting. Just give it a google, and you'll find some sites that will help you.
 

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I ask about th tongue/teeth because some players play with the tongue very far down in order to achieve an "open throat", and this can interfere with altissimo. It did with me a long time ago as well.
There's a thing that Sinta always does in his masterclasses, where he plays altissimo A or Bb and uses every fingering in the chromatic scale to get the same note. I think that's what you shoot for with the mpc exercise. It's the voicing more than the fingering. It can be frustrating. Drove me crazy till I figured it out.
Rob
 

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Do the sides of your tongue touch your molars? Also you should try to see if you can get concert C down to concert G on just the mouthpiece by moving your tongue only. Like a "Remmington" C-B-C-Bb-C-A etc. Most classical players put their normal tone between A and B. So you're above and below your norm.

Can you elaborate on this? Are you saying to play altissimo properly your tongue has to be touching the molars??

Cheers
 

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can you whistle? Can You Whistle the pitches of the overtones? The changes in your mouth while playing are not that different than what is happening when you whistle.

Can you play a full octave of pitches in your mouthpiece alone. That is a true sign of embrasure flexibility. (Which I feel is needed to produce many overtones as possible).

Good Luck!
Charlie
 

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Boy, does this thread apply to me!

I can really relate to your frustration regarding the overtone series, OverTony. I've been stymied for almost five years now. On low Bb, I can get the first two overtones easily but have never been able to produce the Bb above the staff with any regularity. Ironically, I may literally have every altissimo method book published and I practice daily, yet the overtone exercises continue to be my nemesis.

Out of sheer frustration, I made the rash decision to abandon the overtone series about two years ago and went directly to playing altissimo notes using various fingering charts. I was amazed that I was able to play up to altissimo C with confidence after only a few weeks. I could only conclude that there are, indeed, some of us who may never master the overtone series, yet can play fairly well in the third register.

I must mention, however, that I still practice the overtone series every other day or so. Just hoping against hope for a breakthrough...
 

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I'm sorry to hear that you are having so much trouble with your altissimo and overtones after so many years. I wish I had good advice for you, but the only thing I can really say is go slow and take things one at a time. Right now the thing that will probably help the most is to experiment with different things such as your tongue position, your lip pressure or mouth position, and even your throat. Be patient and work on it a little everyday.
 

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Thanks, Caruso.

After re-reading the posts here and thinking about my situation, I've decided to set-aside the overtone series excercises for at least several months. This may be counter-intuitive, but I'm now thinking that's my most logical path to eventually mastering them.

It's obvious that after 5 years of little to no success, I've ingrained some habits (tongue position, air stream, throat adjustments, etc.) that I'm unable to identify--much less correct--when I try the exercises. Perhaps, after an extended break, I can approach the overtone series again and the problematic muscle-memories I've unfortunately developed may erode. This will give me the "fresh start" I need when I try again.

Wish me luck!
 

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Can you elaborate on this? Are you saying to play altissimo properly your tongue has to be touching the molars??

Cheers
I don't know if I'd say "properly", but many players and teachers talk about having a higher tongue position for altissimo. Tongue touching molars would accomplish this assuming you have molars. I'm of the opinion it doesn't matter how you do it, if it sounds good and doesn't hurt anything or anyone along the way.
 
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